December 18, 2009
It was a gamble. The sun and southerly winds were to bring a breath of warmer air to the region, but would it be enough? A stodgy arctic front made itself at home over the past couple weeks. Abundant shelf ice sprung out from the banks, nearly cutting off access to the river. Time to get geared up.
Winter fishing is a whole different breed of angling than spring, summer or even fall fishing. Temps rarely rise above freezing and seeing the sun is considered a gift. Arctic winds blowing from the northwest is the norm and so are frozen fingers. Base layers, insulation, and breathable outerwear are compulsory items in the frozen white north. A toque or fleece cap are a must to keep ears warm; a hoody is a bonus. Gloves can go either way. There are plenty of different styles on the market, including neoprene, fleece, wool, gore-tex, or other breathable waterproof glove. The options abound with mitten, fingerless, flip over and trigger fingerless style gloves. Some even opt out. I have yet to find a perfect pair of winter gloves for fly fishing. I currently wear fingerless neoprene/fleece gloves. They perform well at keeping my hands warm and dry but are a bit too bulky for my taste. I've been interested in the Cloudveil trigger finger gloves but they are never available in my size. Regardless, keep a pair of pocket hand warmers like HotHands2 handy. They are great for warming numb fingers back to life after handling fish and icy water and snow.
I was lucky to find a small opening in the shelf ice where I could fish behind from shore. Rising water made the shelf ice thin and unstable and a bad idea to fish from. I had a narrow run to work along the ice shelf that required some fairly precision casting. Unfortunately, a steady 10 mph breeze blowing perpendicular to the edge of the shelf provided a challenge from keeping my line off the ice. Surprisingly, I hooked up with a nice golden redhorse on one of my first drifts. Hungry.
Temps never did break 20°F/-7°C. Fighting iced over guides is always an ongoing battle. Combined with shelf ice, drifting ice chunks, wind, and your line icing up, casting is a trial, demanding the utmost patience. Time to brush up on your best Norwegian, you'll be swearing like a sailor by the end of the day. I need to find a real solution to fighting the ice. Loon's Ice Off paste only works down to 20°F, not helping my situation. I've heard that titanium guides resist the build up of ice, but that does not address the issue with my rods that were built with chrome guides. I might need to experiment with Rain-X or some other hydrophobic concoction, and hope they don't burn the hell out of my fly line. Someone's gotta have a working solution out there.
Was out searching for carp but came up empty handed. Found a ton of redhorse, though, to my delight. I love those spunky fighters, like torpedos. I had a hunch the carp were sitting underneath the ice shelf, but when a large piece of the ice broke free, nary a carp were to be seen. High river flows (still at spring runoff levels) could be partly to blame, as could the ACOE's recent manipulation of the flows upstream. Either way, It doesn't look like Santa will be bringing me a Christmas Carp this year. He did, however, pass on the lump of coal and brought me a buffalo instead.
Looks like I'll have to be a better brownliner for Santa next year.